Frustrated by efforts to reduce election fraud and initiative abuse, a coalition led by a petition gathering firm and several Democrat operatives have decided to run an initiative. Dubbed the “Democracy and Accountability Act,” their proposed ballot measure would roll back several key election reforms, including the current prohibition on ballot harvesting in Arizona.
For those not familiar with ballot harvesting, this is a tactic used by labor unions and paid canvassers to go door to door and collect early ballots from voters. Often, political operations will go to apartment complexes or other high-density areas and ‘harvest’ ballots in key races, where a few votes might make a difference.
Ballot harvesting is incredibly intrusive and runs counter to the American tradition of a secret ballot. Unlike polling locations on election day where advocates are required to stay 75 feet from the voting stations to give voters privacy, activists and other hired guns can directly engage and pressure citizens while they are voting at their homes.
It also is an invitation for voter fraud, especially given the fact that Arizona is predominantly an early voter state. Ballot harvesting pressure tactics have been documented, and both parties have been found to abuse the process. Given the opportunity for mischief, Arizona wisely banned the practice in 2016 and limited early ballot returns to immediate family members.
There is no reason to bring ballot harvesting back, unless the goal is to manipulate the election process and to make money for political operatives and unions that run these operations.
It also explains why the initiative includes several changes to the registration requirements for paid petition circulators as well. For years, petition firms have opposed any reforms that would prevent initiative fraud and abuse, primarily because it holds paid circulators accountable for wrongdoing (and by extension, the petition firms that hire them).
That’s bad for business, so their solution was to remove the requirement that the Secretary of State review the paid circulator registration forms for accuracy and to eliminate all penalties for skipping town and ignoring lawfully issued subpoenas during signature challenges.
The backers of this measure likely know that bringing back ballot harvesting and encouraging paid circulator registration fraud will not be popular with voters. In order to avoid this uncomfortable discussion, they included additional language that would crack down on potential conflicts of interest by politicians at the legislature.
Though we appreciate the concern petition firms have about corruption and conflicts of interest at the legislature, it rings rather hollow when they are simultaneously looking to increase corruption (and profit) at the ballot box.
It is too early to say whether this measure will have enough money and support to qualify for the ballot. Even if it does, we are confident that voters won’t have too much trouble seeing through this obvious attempt to undermine the integrity of Arizona’s electoral process.